Diary of Orrin Brown, Kalamazoo, Michigan
Came off warm and pleasant, got my breakfast and went down town, found Norman, we went and got my furlough extended to Tuesday evening at 6 Oclock, went and bought some toys for the children to the amount of $2.50. Fisher and Buckman came about noon, they have got 9 men and a sight for two more. Bought some little notions such as are indispensible to the soldier and went back to the barracks.
Who is Norman?
In this day and age when we can google anything, I get as lazy as the next internet researcher. In the “good old days”, I would have expected I would need to trundle off to a research library, page through musty musters and heavy histories, and determine the answer to my questions. Today, if we can’t google it, well, it must not be that important…
FamilySearch Wiki has some tips for researching Civil War veterans. The National Park Service has posted the Civil War Soldiers and Sailors System database, with basic index information about men who served in both the Union and Confederate armies in the War Between the States, including Pvt Orrin Brown. This database lists 7 men whose first name was “Norman” in the 14th Michigan Infantry, 2 with last name Fisher and nobody with the surname Buckman, but spelling was a fairly abstract concept at this time (as it would be today without spell check). The two gentlemen referenced may be recruiters outside the unit or belong to different units.
However, new resources are being digitized all the time. The Michigan Historical Center’s Seeking Michigan website provides access and search of millions of digital records, from Stat Census to Civil War serve records, maps and photos to oral history. The graphic clipped above is from a book in their records. Norman is, I presume, Orrin’s big brother N.E. Brown, for whom Orrin served in his stead. Much of history remains a mystery not yet subject to Big Data analysis, but we’re getting there.